As far as collaborations between tech and auto brands go, most of them are little more than a badge exchange program. Pete Lau, co-founder of OnePlus, though, has a deeper sense of commitment between his brand’s association with McLaren Automotive.
After a couple of special edition smartphones, the first-ever concept phone shown at OnePlus’ first-ever CES outing proved that now it’s a legit engineering marriage between the Chinese and the Brits. The Concept One, as the phone is called for now, is basically a 7T Pro on the inside, complete with the 90Hz display, pop-up selfie cam and a triple camera set-up at the back, but the packaging is completely new, with a very exciting and futuristic twist.
Handcrafted using the same papaya orange leather used on the McLaren 720S supercar, the Concept One’s biggest heist from the McLaren garage is the electrochromic glass. It’s seen on the sunroof in a Mclaren and allows the glass to be turned from transparent to opaque in a matter of seconds, and now, you can have it on your smartphone… in the near future!
Taking a piece of tech that consumes so much space and energy – and miniaturising and optimising it to be implemented on a smartphone – took OnePlus engineers around 18 months of rigorous work. They have succeeded remarkably in bringing down the entire glass assembly thickness to just 0.35mm, and this includes many layers of sandwiched materials and voltage sensitive glass.
The EC glass is used to hide the three rear camera modules and helps in creating what OnePlus calls a burdenless design philosophy which aims to conceal elements that might hamper with the aesthetic purity of the design. The result is a smartphone with a back that looks luxurious and futuristic, without drawing attention to the multiple camera lenses as the primary focal point, no pun intended.
The advantages of this technology are two fold -- OnePlus claims that as phones increasingly have multiple camera modules (3, 4 or even 5) on their back panels, it leads to strange looking devices that polarise popular opinion. Also, the properties of the EC glass empower the camera engineers to give users control over the ND (neutral density) filter that allows adjustment of colour and light in real time in the Pro mode, which wouldn’t be possible without this innovation. It worked well in our hands-on time with the product and the process of the glass turning from opaque to transparent is a mere 0.7 seconds, which is the same time it takes for the camera app to open, so there is no delay in operation.
Apparently, there is no compromise on the optical clarity of the lenses as this is the most transparent EC glass in the industry and OnePlus has also added an anti-reflective coating to it. In the future, this technology could potentially be used for the front camera module too, but for this concept, OnePlus chose to target the rear cams since there are more of them to conceal. It does give the Concept One a minimalist, avant-garde look that is one of a kind and stands out due to the ECMF product development. It involves electronic colouring material finishing, a term coined by OnePlus to describe its penchant for using exotic materials in its devices. The aluminium band separating the front and back of the Concept One is oxidised too with a vapour deposition process that gives it a subtle gold sheen, which is in line with the understated yet opulent look of the Concept One.
No word is out yet on its production or release dates as OnePlus is still field testing it for durability and refinement, but EC glass is a technology that is here to stay and we can’t wait to see where OnePlus uses it first!